It wasn’t pretty, but the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers got a hard fought 57-49 win over the visiting VCU Rams. Neither team shot well, but the Hoos used a late rally to take the lead and hold onto it. With the win, Virginia improved to 9-0 on the season.
Virginia got to the free throw line and were successful there, making 26-of-30 at the line (87%). The Hoos shot just 30% from the field and 28% from three. Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy led Virginia with 15 points apiece, but combined to go 8-for-26 for the game. Jerome added eight rebounds to lead the Hoos and had 10 of his 15 points in the final 6:30 of the game.
Kihei Clark got the starting nod despite a burdensome cast on his left hand, and the first year guard did not disappoint. Clark made a couple errors that seemed caused by the cast, but he scored nine points on a perfect 7-for-7 day at the free throw line and added two rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 33 minutes.
Defensively, the Hoos were solid as they held the Rams to 30% shooting and 21%. Isaac Vann led VCU with 10 points.
VCU got the scoring started with a two-pointer from Marcus Santos-Silva, and the Hoos were unable to answer despite extending the possession with an offensive rebound. Jerome got a steal, but couldn’t convert on the pull-up three in transition. The Rams extended their lead to 4-0 on a layup from Isaac Vann before Guy finally put the Hoos on the board with a floater.
Another layup in the lane off of an offensive rebound gave VCU a 6-2 lead, but Clark drew a foul on a three point shot with two seconds left on the shot clock and drilled all three free throws to make it 6-5.
Virginia took their first lead of the game at 7-6 with 14:23, and Braxton Key added to it with a three off the bench to put the Hoos up by four. A three-point play by Sean Mobley brought the Rams back within one 12:26 to play. On Virginia’s next possession, Guy drove the lane and drew a foul as he finished the difficult shot at the rim. Guy completed the three-point play, increasing Virginia’s lead back to four.
VCU’s Michael Gilmore hit the Rams’ first three of the game to keep the pressure on and retook the lead at 14-13 with a goaltending call against Mamadi Diakite. Hunter gave the lead back to the Hoos through traffic in the lane and hit the ensuing free throw after Gilmore was called for his second foul of the half.
Jay Huff was called for a foul, but VCU missed both free throws. Guy hit a gorgeous turnaround jumper off of a well-designed inbounds play, but VCU responded with a three-pointer that brought them within one yet again. A turnover by Jerome gave the Rams a chance to retake the lead at 19-18 thanks to a weird carom off the rim on a missed shot.
Two more free throws from Hunter put the Hoos back ahead by one with just over 7:30 to play in the opening half. Guy connected on his first three of the game with 5:21 to play, giving Virginia a 23-19 advantage. Clark went among the trees to finish a circus shot to put the Hoos up by six, but VCU had several opportunities on the offense due to some questionable calls and the Rams closed within three with a trey.
An alley-oop by the Rams made it 25-24 Virginia with just over a minute left in the first half. Jerome connected on his first three of the game after some fancy passing on the offensive end to put the Hoos up by four. A defensive stand by Virginia gave the home team one more shot, and Guy was fouled following a three from Jerome that just barely rimmed out. He made one of two from the line to send the Hoos into halftime with a 29-24 lead.
VCU—which has the No. 12 rated defense per KenPom—did a good job of making life difficult for the Hoos on offense as Virginia shot just 35% from the field in the first half and 30% from three. They were particularly effective on Hunter, who only took three shots in the first half and had five points. Ten of Virginia’s points came from the line (on 12 attempts) as the Hoos did a solid job of driving to the hoop and drawing the call.
Virginia turned the ball over five times, leading to five points for the Rams. VCU outscored the Hoos 12-6 in the paint, but both teams tied with seven second chance points. The Hoos held VCU to 37% shooting from the field and 3-for-11 from three (27%), and the Rams only took three free throws in the first half. Vann led VCU with six first half points.
The start of the second half was all VCU. Santos-Silva got a way-too-easy look in the paint to open the half and pull the Rams within three. VCU got another bucket in the lane, but was unable to convert the free throw that would have tied the game at 29. Virginia called a timeout after De’Riante Jenkins hit a three to take a 31-29 lead.
UVA went 0-for-5 in the first 3:29 of the second half before Diakite tied things up at 31. Clark found the big man again for a hook shot to give Virginia the lead back, but VCU tied it up again thanks to a Santos-Silva rebound and put-back. He gave the Rams the one-point lead back with a free throw after Hunter was called for a foul.
After a scoring drought of nearly three minutes, Jerome made one of two at the line to tie the game once again. Clark put Virginia out in front again by making both of his free throws and giving the Hoos a slim 36-34 lead with 10:31 to play. VCU retook the lead by one thanks to a three pointer, ending a scoring drought of over five minutes for the Rams.
Vann extended VCU’s lead to 39-36 with just over nine minutes to play thanks to two free throws. Hunter drew a foul driving the baseline and pulling up for a jumper and made both to pull the Cavaliers back within one. Two more free throws from VCU put the advantage back to three, and Guy couldn’t get a three to fall on the other end.
VCU used a layup to extend their lead to five, and a runner through traffic by Jerome—Virginia’s third bucket of the second half—pulled the Hoos back within three. Jack Salt outmuscled the defender for a huge rebound, setting up a game-tying three from Jerome. Staunchy defense by Clark forced a 10-second call, and Salt gave the Hoos a 44-43 lead by making one of two at the line after he was fouled.
Jenkins made a nifty move down low to give the Rams the one point advantage, but another three from Jerome gave the Hoos the lead right back. As Jerome was shooting the three, VCU was called for a foul off-ball, giving the Hoos the three, and Guy a one-and-one opportunity. He made both, giving Virginia five points on the possession and a four point lead with just over four to play.
Clark turned the ball over after dribbling off his foot, but the Virginia defense stood strong and the Rams weren’t able to convert on a couple three point attempts. Diakite extended Virginia’s lead to 51-45 with 2:46 remaining thanks to a couple free throws.
Virginia got the ball back after Clark poked it loose and fell on it to force a jump ball that gave possession back to the Hoos with 2:35 left. A three from Jerome went halfway down before popping out, but Hunter corralled the rebound and pushed Virginia’s lead to eight after converting from the line.
Jenkins hit a three over Guy to pull back within five with just under two minutes left, but Clark was fouled bringing the ball up court. With the Hoos in the double-bonus, Clark made both, giving Virginia a seven point advantage. VCU was unable to connect on several attempts on the offensive end, and Jerome hit two free throws to ice the game with 19 seconds left.
Next up, Virginia hits the road to play South Carolina on December 19.